This Cannoli Layer Cake is a light, moist cinnamon cake filled with ricotta filling, then frosted with mascarpone frosting! Covered in mini chocolate chips, this treat has all the best parts of a cannoli in one delicious cake!
FOR THE YELLOW BUTTER CAKE:
3¼ cups (425g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
1½ cups (360 ml) whole milk
FOR THE RICOTTA FILLING AND CANNOLI:
32 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
⅔ cup (3 oz.) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1½ teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups (8 oz.) mini semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ready-made mini cannoli shells
FOR THE MASCARPONE BUTTERCREAM:
¾ cup (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups (365g) confectioners’ sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened
¼ teaspoon fine grain salt
Heavy cream, if needed
FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE FROSTING:
2 cups (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
½ cup (43g) sliced almonds
TO MAKE THE YELLOW BUTTER CAKE:
Preheat the oven to 350°F(177°C). Coat three 8-inch cake pans with flour-based baking spray (or grease and flour). set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high for 3-5 minutes until the butter is light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl.
With the mixer running on low, add the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl.
Add the flour mixture in three batches while mixing on low speed, alternating with the milk; begin and end with flour. Mix briefly on medium speed until no streaks of flour remain.
Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
TO MAKE THE RICOTTA FILLING AND CANNOLI:
Place the ricotta cheese in a cheesecloth-lined sieve. Tie the loose ends of the cheesecloth together with kitchen twine and place the sieve in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, discard the liquid (whey) in the bottom of the bowl.
Turn the drained ricotta out into a large mixing bowl. Add the powdered sugar and mix well with a hand mixer. Mix in the orange zest and vanilla. Fold in 1 cup of the mini chips using a rubber spatula; place the remaining ½ cup of chips in a small dish.
Remove about 1 cup of the ricotta to a piping bag with a ½-inch hole snipped in the end. Pipe the filling into the cannoli shells. Dip each end of the cannoli into the dish of mini chips. If you have any leftover filling in the piping bag, squeeze it back into the bowl. Refrigerate the filled cannoli while you prepare the rest of the cake.
FOR THE MASCARPONE BUTTERCREAM:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the butter on high speed until creamy. Mix in the powdered sugar a little at a time until thick. Add the vanilla, mascarpone cheese and salt. Beat at high speed until well combined, about 30 seconds. Do not overbeat. If the mixture is too thick to spread, mix in heavy cream a tablespoon at a time. If too thin, refrigerate until it firms.
Fill and frost: Place a cake layer on a cake board or serving plate. Top with half of the ricotta filling and spread evenly. Top with a second cake layer; spread remaining ricotta filling evenly. Top with the third cake layer. Cover the outside of the cake with the mascarpone buttercream. Refrigerate while you make the ganache.
TO MAKE THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE FROSTING:
In a large microwave-safe bowl, add the semisweet chips and heavy cream. Heat the mixture in the microwave at 100% power for 1-1:30 seconds, or until the cream is hot but not boiling. Let the mixture stand for 1 minute and then whisk until a consistent shiny ganache is achieved. Refrigerate until the mixture is thick and easily spreadable like buttercream. Transfer the ganache to a piping bag with a ½-inch plain round piping tip.
Pipe chocolate ganache around the bottom half of the cake in an undulating pattern, creating a smooth rising and falling outline (almost like drawing the outline of a mountain range). Fill in the outline with more ganache; smooth using a bench scraper or offset spatula. Immediately pat sliced almonds onto the ganache.
Place the six filled cannoli on top of the cake radiating from the center so that the edges of each cannoli touch each other in the top center of the cake to make a cannoli flower. Transfer remaining ganache to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe swirls of ganache between the cannoli on top of the cake. Sprinkle leftover sliced almonds and mini chips on top of the piped ganache. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serve slices slightly chilled or at room temperature. Cover leftovers with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.